Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Iraqi Prime Minister Tries to Bridge Ethnic Divide in Election Campaign

Isabel Coles and Ghassan Adnan write for The Wall Street Journal:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made a rare visit to the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region on Thursday, seeking to burnish his image as a leader for all the country as he campaigns for reelection next month.

It is unprecedented for an Iraqi head of state to campaign in Erbil and demonstrates Mr. Abadi's efforts to secure votes beyond his own Shiite Arab constituency.

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Iraq: Local Forces Banish ISIS Suspects’ Families

Human Rights Watch reports:

Local armed forces in the northern Iraqi district of al-Ba’aj, issued an order in February 2018 that relatives of male Islamic State (also known as ISIS) members could not return, Human Rights Watch said today.

This will prevent hundreds of people, if not thousands, from returning home. Human Rights Watch has interviewed hundreds of other families of ISIS suspects across Iraq who faced similar punishments after ISIS fighters fled.

“The Ba’aj decree is one of the clearest pieces of evidence to date that Iraqi authorities are collectively punishing relatives of ISIS suspects,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Local forces and the central government need to answer for this discrimination.”

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Iraqi Kurdish activists stamping out female genital mutilation

Florian Neuhof writes for The National:

In the home of a village elder in northern Iraq, Kurdistan Rasul is quickly making her presence felt. Moments earlier, Said Abdulwahid had welcomed Mrs Rasul into his living room, from where she was scheduled to talk to the women of Gomasheen village about the hazards of female circumcision, a tradition she has been fighting for years.

But after after driving for hours from the Kurdish capital of Erbil, Mrs Rasul arrived at the village at the foot of the Zagros mountains to find that only four women turned up to hear her talk. But she intends to reach a wider audience. Careful to show respect, she launches into a rapid-fire chatter with fifty year-old Mr Abdulwahid, quick with smiles and jokes, gesturing energetically as she asks him to gather a greater crowd. She also harangues the women to call their friends to join.

Gomasheen is just one small battleground in Mrs Rasul’s greater war against female genital mutilation in the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Whereas the practice is almost non-existent elsewhere in the country, many women in Kurdistan are still subjected to the custom. That young girls are now less likely to be circumcised than their mothers is due in no small part to activists like Mrs Rasul, who is tireless in driving home her message.

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In Iraq’s Anbar, election offers chance to settle scores

Ali Choukeir writes for AFP:

In the vast desert province of Anbar where Islamic State group jihadists first emerged in Iraq, parliamentary elections next month are an opportunity for the predominantly Sunni residents to settle scores.

Many of the new candidates are eager to push out lawmakers they believe minimised the danger of -- or even sympathised with -- the Sunni extremists that stormed across the country in the summer of 2014.

"The political class that existed before IS is no longer suitable. They have lost their credibility with the residents of Anbar," said Rafea al-Fahdawi, who heads the candidate list in the province for the Victory Alliance led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

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In southern Iraq, drought tightens its grip

AFP reports:

Abu Ali carefully crank-starts a generator to pump water from a well out into his parched field in southern Iraq.

There used to be no need for a well in his village but a creeping drought is now threatening agriculture and livelihoods in the area.

"Last year, the river started to dry up and today we only have wells to supply us with water," the 73-year-old farmer said.

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In power for 15 years, Iraq’s Shi’ites split ahead of crucial vote

Ahmed Aboulenein writes for Reuters:

United in their fight against Saddam Hussein’s oppression for decades, Iraq’s Shi’ites have become deeply fragmented and disillusioned with their leaders after 15 years in power.

In Iraq’s Shi’ite heartlands, many who once voted blindly along sectarian lines are now turning their ire against the Shi’ite-led governments they say have failed to repair crumbling infrastructure, provide jobs or end the violence.

The divisions within the community now risk splitting the Shi’ite vote in a May 12 election, which could complicate and delay the formation of a government, threaten gains against Islamic State and let Iran meddle further in Iraq’s politics.

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Iraqi women election candidates targeted for abuse gain UN support

BBC News reports:

The UN has condemned "defamation and violence" against women candidates in Iraq's elections, after one candidate resigned over an alleged sex tape.

Dr Intidhar Ahmed Jassim withdrew from the race after the video - which she says is a fake - was released online.

Other women candidates have also reportedly faced online harassment.

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In Iraq minefields, an old war leaves a menacing legacy

Mohammed Ati writes for Reuters:

The Iraqis who pick over their country’s old battlefields for military scrap metal and wiring have few other ways to make a living, but the task comes with enormous risks.

So numerous are the wounds inflicted by mines and ordnance in Jurf al-Milh that the southern Iraqi village is better known as al Bitran, which means “the amputees” in the local dialect.

Hundreds of villagers have lost limbs to mines and unexploded ordnance from the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1988.

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Iraq election: Ex-sports stars seek to shake up politics

AFP reports:

In the sweltering heat of Mexico '86, Ahmed Radhi and Basil Gorgis pulled on the same jerseys to represent Iraq's football team in its sole World Cup Finals.

But now, a third of a century later, they're just two of several former stars taking part in a very different contest - as parliamentary candidates in the May 12 election.

While the World Cup adventure ended in dismal failure, with Iraq crashing out after losing all three of its group games, the ex-players' appeal could be a big draw for some Iraqi voters.

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Sunni and Shia struggle with Iraq’s reconciliation process

Erika Solomon writes for Financial Times:

Dirt barriers and charred no-man’s lands still divide the Sunni and Shia families in Yathrib even after a three-year reconciliation process meant to heal a community torn apart by the war with Isis. Officials plan to segregate roads and irrigation canals, even lobbying to split administration of the remote agriculture district in two.

Though the bitter struggle to drive Isis out of Iraqi territory is largely won, Yathrib’s story shows how daunting the process of reconciliation can be. Yathrib is not a large city, like Mosul or Ramadi, where vast urban districts were razed in months-long battles. It is not even one of the most demographically complex areas that must be reconciled. And still, millions of dollars were spent to win the peace here.

Dozens of Iraqi officials, mediators, UN affiliates, and even local militias shuttled for years between Yathrib’s divided tribes. But farmers like Qassim al-Saadi still waver between a peace they were told they must accept, and a nagging desire for revenge against neighbours they believe embraced Isis when the Sunni jihadi group stormed their land.

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